Lyman installs new fruit orchard

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Tue., Jun. 28, 2011
Dylan Jarvis, going into his senior year at Lyman, is helping teacher Geoffrey Picard with the new orchard. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Dylan Jarvis, going into his senior year at Lyman, is helping teacher Geoffrey Picard with the new orchard. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Geoffrey Picard has been busy bringing new opportunities to his students since joining the Agricultural Science Department at Lyman Memorial High School. There was the sugar house, which gives students hands-on experience in forestry and sugaring. A newly-acquired bee hive will give students experience with honey production. Last summer, Picard successfully rounded up a number of donated canoes and kayaks, which will be used for educational excursions this fall. And recently, Picard and a student planted more than 30 young fruit trees, which will be used for hands-on teaching.

Picard contacted the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association seeking donations for the new orchard. "That was six months ago," he said, "and I didn't think anything would come of it." Picard obtained a few trees from a local business, and was able to purchase a few more. Then several weeks ago, he heard from Robert Baker Companies in West Suffield. "They had heard about my request from a trade magazine," said Picard.

With 25 young fruit trees to plant, Picard enlisted the assistance of Dylan Jarvis, entering his senior year at Lyman. "He's kind of my right-hand man," said Picard. "He lives close, and he's good about helping out. He's been working after school with me practically every weekend of the year."

At first, the duo started hand-digging. But the right-hand man quickly grew weary of the task. "I said, 'It's the 21st century,'" said Jarvis. They dug the rest of the holes with the assistance of a small tractor.

"He loves to drive the tractor," said Picard with a grin.

Just a couple of weeks after the end of the school year, Lyman boasted a freshly-installed fruit orchard. "This used to be a pumpkin patch," said Picard, gesturing toward the still-muddy plot. The orchard is surrounded by fencing to protect it from marauding deer.

Come fall, the plot should yield apples, plums, cherries, peaches and pears, despite the small size of the trees (about 5 or 6 feet tall). "Some of them already have fruit on them," said Picard. "I've had a small orchard at my house for a few years, and nothing beats picking your own fruit."

Besides the satisfaction of harvesting the fruits of their labor, Lyman agriculture students should benefit in a number of different ways from the new orchard. "I teach a landscaping class every year," said Picard, "so I already teach some of the orchard maintenance skills." The trees will allow for hands-on experience in fruit production, orchard maintenance, grafting, propagating, pruning, pesticides and fertilizers. "Eventually, we'd like to incorporate food science into our curriculum," said Picard. The yield from the trees will provide the basis for cider, jellies, jams and other products.

Picard would love to add to the orchard at Lyman, and would be interested in the donation of fruit trees, grapes, blueberries or other fruit-bearing plants. The students would also like to locate a golf cart or ATV to use to get around the school's increasingly diverse instructional areas. Contact Picard if you would like to make a donation, or for more information, at 860-642-5739 or at Geoffrey.Picard@lebanonct.org.


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